Wednesday, July 11, 2012

green beans & the art of drying

Sometimes I think I only plant beans to make work for myself, which isn't an entirely abnormal for a human thing for a human to do.  If there's no problem around, we humans will make one.  For instance, the computer.  My computer keeps jumping onto a nearby, unlocked network, which is driving me nuts.  Back in the 90s I loved solving computer problems, so much so in fact, that I would frequently fake sick so that I could stay home from school and monkey about on our home computer.  Now, of course, I am not into computers.  I prefer simpler tools like knives.  I can understand a knife.  

My green beans are coming in like crazy now, which means that I'm somewhat crazy now, too.  When you participate in a season for the purpose of canning green beans, the season forces you onto its schedule, which exhilarates some and infuriates others.  I mostly enjoy it.  Sitting on my porch in the shade, trimming the ends of my green beans, to me that's when life is sweet.  I decided to let these green bean ends sit on the porch table so that I could watch them dry out.  A friend came over the other night, and after I talked about them for ten minutes, she asked me what I would do with them, to which I responded, "Put them in a jar."  Here they are, only moments after being cut.

I spend a lot of time during the peak of summer preserving vegetables, either by canning them, freezing them, or fermenting them in crocks, and at the same time I save seeds by drying them in the sun.  I am not saving these bean ends for any practical purpose, but watching them dry out is purpose enough.  In high school my friends would tease me by saying, "Simple pleasures," as if that were some kind of insult, which I could never really understand, but I suppose watching bean ends dry out is a simple pleasure.  I photographed them over the course of three days.  Here they are on day two.

The more that I look at this picture, the more I realize that there is nothing so simple about this.  I mean, if you can't appreciate the way the cellular structure of a green bean end is transformed by the sun, what do you appreciate?  If one were so inclined, he could sit down and write a long document about all the observable changes.  I'm not all that inclined to do that.  You can look at the pictures yourself.  I do want to pipe up a bit and make a remark about the pinks.  Look at those pinks!  The Paas Easter egg coloring company would die to cram those pinks into a tablet. 

On the third day the beans were completely dry.  I can now safely put them into a jar and lid it, without running the risk of the beans rotting from miniscule bits of transpired moisture which would cause a greenhouse-like atmosphere to form inside the jar, thus re-hydrating the beans enough to potentially jeopardize their perfect, dry states.  This is the secret to drying things.  Do not put them into enclosed containers until they are 100% dry.  Where there is water, there will  be microorganisms.    

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